How to Craft Your Perfect Wedding Day Timeline

One of the biggest things to figure out when wedding planning: how to craft your perfect wedding day timeline!

Going into this blog post all about how to craft your perfect wedding day timeline, here are a couple things to note:

If you’re a photographer, then this post will be helpful to you when helping your own clients!

If you’re an engaged couple, then, well, this post will be helpful to YOU & your own wedding! (guess that was probably a given. . .)

 

Wedding party, bridal party photos, fun wedding party photos

 

Your timeline is one of, if not THE most crucial part of planning a smooooth wedding day!! If you’re not sure what exactly a wedding timeline is, it’s a layout or schedule of what’s happening on your wedding day. 

It’s not your job to know how to make yours, though. You’ve likely never planned a wedding before, so how in the world are you supposed to know what to do?! It’s usually a collaboration between your planner/coordinator (if you have one) and your photographer!

If you hire a planner or coordinator of any kind, they’ll create a timeline for you based on a few things. These include: when certain vendors are showing up — hair/makeup artists, caterers, etc. — and when the main events are — ceremony, dinner, when you need to be out of the venue by, etc.

From there, you’ll want to have your planner collaborate with your photographer! Your photographer will make changes or create their own timeline to merge with the planner’s. They’ll create theirs based on lighting, what time the sun is setting, and the amount of time needed for certain photos.

And if you’re choosing not to hire a planner or coordinator, don’t fret! Your photographer should help create your timeline with you and make sure you’re all set. (This is one of my favorite parts of helping my couples in the planning process! I’m such a nerd about schedules!! Eee!)

Now, let’s get into my top tips on how to craft your perfect wedding day timeline!

 

bride and groom walking down aisle, bride and groom kissing, wedding recessional

 

1. First look or no first look?

In my opinion, this is the first thing to decide when thinking about how to craft your perfect wedding day timeline!

Whether or not you choose to do a first look hugely affects the flow of your wedding day!

I’ll be diving deeper into this topic in another blog post. But for now, here are the basic ways a first look will affect your timeline:

 

If you have a first look:

  • You get an intimate moment just the two of you when you first see each other! You can add notes, prayer or other special gifts to this time!
  • You’ll get to spend way more of the actual day together before being around all your guests
  • You have the option of doing your couple, family, and wedding party photos before the ceremony
    • If you do this: after your ceremony, you can go straight to eating, drinking, & hanging out!
  • You’ll have more time for a variety of photos locations
  • Your photographer will arrive earlier in the day + be there for longer before the ceremony

**view a wedding gallery with a first look here!**

 

If you don’t have a first look:

  • You’ll get the dramatic moment of seeing each other for the first time down the aisle
  • You’ll spend less of the day together and always be around others
  • Your photographer will be there for longer after the ceremony than before it
  • You’ll probably have less time for couples photos
  • Family + wedding party photos will be after the ceremony

**view a wedding gallery without a first look here!**

 

bride and groom, bride and groom first look, first look between bride and groom

 

2. Nail down the mood/vibe of your day.

You and your partner need to decide on the mood of your wedding day! 

The best way to decide this is to consider a few different things:

  • Are your family & friends going to be a big part of the day? If so, you’ll want to intentionally include more time to spend with them.
  • Are you more focused on celebrating with your partner? Build in more time for just the two of you to get away from the crowd.
  • Are you & your partner introverts or extroverts? If you’re more introverted, you’ll likely get exhausted by all the people at your wedding. Build in time for you to spend in a quiet space together away from everybody else. If you’re more extroverted, you likely won’t need as much “break” time. Instead, focus your timeline on being around your guests!
  • Do you want your wedding to be more on the relaxed, chill side, or be full of energy + be a huge party? If you’re super focused on keeping the day more relaxed, be sure to build in plenty of flex time. If you’re wanting a party of a day full of excitement, focus on a longer reception rather than a lot of flex time throughout the day.

bridal party, bridal party at sunset, bridal party photos

 

3. Consider driving time.

This is a big one, and something that’s easy to forget about!

Driving between locations can eat up a ton of time without you even realizing it. Then the big day arrives and suddenly, your photography/videography coverage feels way shorter because of driving time that was previously unaccounted for!

This could look like:

  • Getting ready at separate locations 10 minutes away from each other
  • A 20-minute drive from your hotel where you’re getting ready, to your ceremony spot
  • A 15-minute drive from your ceremony location to your downtown reception location – not counting traffic
  • A 10-minute drive to the spot you want to take your sunset photos at

If you want to have multiple locations on your wedding day, that’s AWESOME! Just be sure you plan extra time for all of your guests & vendors to get from location to location. The more transitions between locations, the more likely the day will get off-track time-wise (which is okay, weddings are infamous for running late!). Keep this in mind when figuring out with your photographer/videographer how many hours of coverage you’ll need. You may need a larger package when you add in driving time for everybody!

 


 

4. Make sure your photographer knows allll the specifics!

I personally send a pre-wedding questionnaire to my couples to make sure I know everything that will be going on day-of!

Here are a few things I make sure to ask my couples, so I can take them into consideration when creating their timeline:

  • Does the bride want to have a special dress reveal with her bridesmaids?
  • Will there be a first look between the couple?
  • Are there going to be any first looks between the couple & their parents?
  • Would the couple prefer to have family photos be before or after the ceremony?
  • Does the couple have a vision for a location for wedding party photos?
  • How long will the ceremony last (an estimate)?
  • Will the couple be greeting their guests immediately after the ceremony?
  • Does the couple want to sneak out of the reception for sunset photos?

If your wedding day will involve anything special or “out of the ordinary” — for example, a special ceremony activity, a specific reception activity or game, or a first look with a grandparent — make sure your photographer is aware! These details will all be taken into account when creating your timeline.

 

black and white wedding photos, bride and groom on wedding day

 

5. Finally, figure out your non-negotiable times first!

When it comes time to actually craft your timeline with your photographer, figure out your non-negotiable times first.

These are the times certain events will be at that are non-negotiable, such as your ceremony, when dinner is being served by your caterer, when your hairstylist/makeup artist is arriving, etc. 

When I help my couples craft their timelines, I like to work back from the ceremony time (and it always depends on the questionnaire answers). Once I hit the beginning of the day, I then go from the ceremony through the reception and figure out those times! This will help us figure out the best arrival & departure times for me as the photographer, based on the package & hours of coverage purchased.

As a photographer, I’m always thinking about lighting and when the best time for certain photos are depending on the location! Make sure you’re considering this when nailing everything down! If we do couple photos mid-day I usually try to sneak my couples outside for a few minutes around sunset to get some golden hour goodness like the image below! <3

bride and groom portraits, sunset wedding portraits

 

And that’s it! Those are my top 5 tips on how to craft your perfect wedding day timeline. Again, it’s the biggest factor in planning a super smooth wedding day and making sure the layout of the day highlights what’s most important to you & your partner!

I hope this post has helped you get a better understanding of all that goes into your timeline & how to make sure you feel great about yours!

And before you go, I’ve written out a few sample timelines below for you to take a look at! Good luck!!

 

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Sample Timelines

Here are a few sample timelines to help give you an idea of what a real-life wedding day could look like! Your timeline will obviously vary based on sunset, ceremony time, etc. – so don’t pay too much attention to the exact times. I often add lots more details custom to each day, but these will give you a good idea :).

6 hours of wedding photography coverage | WITH a first look

  • 12:45-1:40 – Getting ready + detail photos
  • 1:45-2:30 – First look + couples photos
  • 2:45-3:45 – Family + wedding party photos
  • 4:00-4:30 – Ceremony
  • 4:30-4:45 – Sign marriage license
  • 4:30-5:00 – Cocktail hour
  • 5:00-5:30 – Dinner
  • 5:30-6:45 – Cake cutting, first dances, reception activities, sunset photos, etc.

 

6 hours of wedding photography coverage | WITHOUT a first look

  • 2:45-3:45 – Getting ready + detail photos
  • 4:00-4:30 – Ceremony
  • 4:30-4:45 – Drive to Reception
  • 4:50-5:50 – Cocktail hour, family, couple + wedding party photos
  • 6:00-6:30 – Dinner
  • 6:45-8:45 – Cake cutting, first dances, reception activities, sunset photos, etc.

 

8 hours of wedding photography coverage | WITH a first look

  • 12:00-1:15 – Getting ready + detail photos
  • 1:30-2:30 – First look + couples photos
  • 2:45-3:45 – Family + wedding party photos
  • 4:00-4:30 – Ceremony
  • 4:30-4:50 – Sign marriage license
  • 5:00-6:00 – Cocktail hour
  • 6:00-6:45 – Dinner
  • 6:50-8:00 – Cake cutting, first dances, reception activities, sunset photos, etc. 

 

8 hours of wedding photography coverage | WITHOUT a first look

  • 2:30-3:45 – Getting ready + detail photos
  • 4:00-4:30 – Ceremony
  • 4:30-4:50 – Sign marriage license
  • 5:00-6:15 – Cocktail hour, family + wedding party photos
  • 6:20-7:15 – Dinner
  • 7:15-10:30 – Cake cutting, first dances, reception activities, sunset photos, etc. 

 

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Want a fun way to spruce up your wedding timeline? Create a cute design to print out & give to your guests – see some fun Etsy templates here!

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Bride and groom holding hands, bride and groom on wedding day, wedding photos

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